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How do I Use Tea Tree Oil for Head Lice?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Using tea tree oil to treat head lice is a relatively simple process. Shampoos and conditioners can be infused with tea tree oil, which can be used as both a preventative and a treatment for mild infestations. The oil is also safe to use on most linens and can be added to the laundry to kill lice living in bedding or clothing.

Tea tree oil can be purchased as a pure extract, as a diluted extract or as a pre-mixed hair treatment or laundry soap. The benefit of purchasing tea tree oil as a pure extract is that it can be added to shampoo, conditioner or laundry soap. It is not difficult to infuse products with tea tree oil.

The first step in using tea tree oil for head lice treatment is to wash the hair with shampoo infused with the oil. Mixing two drops of oil into 4 oz. (118 mL) is enough to treat mild infestations. The oil can also be added to conditioner, using the same proportions.

After washing the hair, it is a good idea to comb it with a nit comb. This will help pull lice and their nits off the hair follicles. Though a treatment utilizing tea tree oil will kill many of the lice, it is possible that not all of them will die the first time.

Lice can live in clothing and bedding. It is important to wash all linens daily until the infestation is gone. It is possible to use tea tree oil for head lice that are living in fabrics by adding a few drops into the laundry detergent.

If an infestation is particularly bad it is also possible to infuse another type of oil, such as olive oil, with tea tree oil to treat head lice. To use this remedy, mix eight or so drops of tea tree oil with 4 oz. (118 mL) of olive oil. Apply the oil to the hair, making sure to massage it all the way through to the roots. This treatment will need to sit on the hair for about a half an hour. After treatment, the oil can be washed out with shampoo.

Head lice treatment with tea tree oil may take about a week. If the lice do not die or if an infestation returns, it may be time to move to a stronger treatment. There are a number of pesticides that kill lice more effectively than tea tree oil, though they are also much harsher on a person’s body.

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Discussion Comments

By fify — On May 11, 2013

@anamur-- I agree with @fBoyle's suggestions. Adding tea tree oil to shampoo is fine, but I would avoid keeping tea tree oil in the hair for a long time or it might cause irritation, itching or hair fall.

By fBoyle — On May 11, 2013

@anamur-- I've used tea tree oil added to shampoo for my kids when they got lice from other kids at school, an it worked fine. There wasn't any skin irritation. But I did test the tea tree oil on their arm first because I wasn't sure if they had an allergy to it or not. You should always do this before using tea tree oil for head lice.

If you're not comfortable with adding tea tree oil to shampoo, then add it to another carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil. You can apply it to your scalp and keep it on for a while and then wash it off.

It took my kids about a week to get rid of all the lice this way though, so you do have to continue this remedy for a while. Applying it once or twice isn't enough.

By serenesurface — On May 11, 2013

I've heard of people adding tea tree oil to their shampoo for fungal scalp infections, so I assume it works well for lice as well. Just curious, does tea tree oil in shampoo irritate the scalp at all?

I know tea tree oil is kind of of strong, so I'm not sure if it would cause problems after mixing with the ingredients in the shampoo.

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